Monthly Archives: October 2006

Why Automated Translations Are Risky

When someone wants a translation into English and feel they cannot afford to hire a translator, it could be tempting to use an online service like Babelfish.

That might help in getting a bit of an idea, but it is risky.

Back in the 19th century, a couple of Portuguese translators produced an English phrasebook which was so bad it was reproduced for ages as a bit of a joke, under the title “English as She is Spoke”.

Someone has now gone one better and compared some Portuguese phrases with the translations in the original phrasebook and translations from the online Babelfish service.

Here is an example:

Portuguese: Vamos mais depressa. Nunca vi pior besta. Não quer andar, nem para diante, nem para trás.
Accurate translation: Let’s go faster. I never saw a worse animal. It doesn’t want to go either forward or backward.
That phrasebook: Go us more fast never i was seen a so much bad beast; she will not nor to bring forward neither put back.
Babelfish: We go more fast. Never vi worse crossbow. It does not want to walk, nor forward, nor stops backwards.

So be careful about relying on those online services!